Plant name: Aloe vera
Latin name: Aloe barbadensis
Parts used: Leaf
Sourced from: India
What child of the ‘80s didn’t grow up with a parent who propagated their own aloe vera plant for use on burns? Maybe this is a leading question, but my parents’ generation, influenced by the natural foods movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s, seemed to traffic in this type of home remedy. If I try hard enough, I can virtually see the small spiky plant suspended from its little brown pot cradled in beige and beaded macrame.
Aloe is a wise choice to have around whether you are parenting or not, and I like to think of it as a sort of gateway home-remedy plant. You don’t have to be an herbalist or know very much about plant medicine to have encountered the benefits of aloe—especially if you have ever been sunburned.
But before we go further, consider this: 1) Aloe belongs to a group of plants known as the “slimers” (cool); 2) it is widely studied for its ability to permeate the skin, enabling it to carry more of whatever else follows it.
In other words, it’s so much more than just sunburns and macrame.
A Real Slimer
Mucilaginous plants, the technical term, are known for one common trait and one alone—their snot-like qualities. But mucilaginous plants (also called “demulcent”) have a lot of benefits for the skin and body. When they come in contact with water, they form a sort of protective coating, which, depending on the plant, may protect the skin’s barrier from pollutants, impart moisture, or seal it in.
Our Chamomile Yarrow Gel Face Toner gets its snot-like texture (yes, I am going all the way with this metaphor) from not only from aloe, but also marshmallow, another mucilaginous botanical that gives the toner a gel-like consistency and is super hydrating.
Thanks to the action of both of these plant's polysaccharides (a constituent that increases the skin’s natural ability to retain water) they prevent the loss of moisture in the skin, making them dream plants for dry and sensitive skin.
Aloe vera is one of the world’s best loved demulcents and has been in use for centuries, as both an internal and external remedy, originating in Africa and used throughout the Middle Ages in Europe (primarily as a laxative or digestive remedy).
The gel-like “slime” comes from inside the aloe vera leaf and can be used directly from the plant, or extracted and used in combination with other ingredients.
Aloe Vera For The Skin
Aloe’s mucilaginous qualities are also tied to another of its virtues: emollience. An “emollient” is a property that softens or soothes the skin. Soft skin is lovely in its own right of course, but softening is also important in quelling irritation or dryness. Aloe’s soothing qualities relieve sensitive skin and can have a regulating effect on skin that is perpetually irritated, inflamed or dry (hence it’s common application for treating sunburns).
Aloe vera is also hailed for its antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, and wound healing properties, attributed to the high levels of anthraquinones (an organic compound), which promote healing and tissue repair. It takes care of burns and sunburns, bug bites and scrapes. In Ayurvedic medicine, the gel is used as a tonic to cool excess pitta (fire).
The cooling, softening, soothing nature of aloe vera makes it a virtuosic player in any skin care regimen. While it takes care of irritation, it also hydrates and it is being studied for its ability to make the skin more receptive and penetrable. Studies are currently exploring this in relation to transmitting drugs through a transdermal patch, but the implications of this breakthrough extend into the personal care world, too. If aloe vera, as we suspect, helps make skin more receptive and absorptive (i.e., a “penetration enhancer”) than it would enable us to deliver more beneficial plant nutrients to the skin in any regimen that uses aloe.
We certainly feel this happen when we use our new soap formula in the shower. The new formula is packed with aloe to increase its gel-like texture, as well as to up the moisture quotient. When you use it as a body wash, you can feel its lasting softness, gentleness, suppleness.
Aloe's Native Habitat
Originally grown wild in East and South Africa, aloe vera is now cultivated in the West Indies and other tropical regions. It can be conveniently grown as a house plant in a sunny window. Our certified organic, aloe barbadensis leaf is grown in India
Written By Vera Kachouh